29 December 2009

bounce, bounce, woof

by Cecily
The dog would really like to play with a cat or kitten, but hasn't had any takers so far.


27 December 2009

hey double dactyl-y

by Cecily
my sister's here, with her dog, so I made a poem about them:

Diggerel doggerel
Sad Scruffleupagus
worries and whines as he
waits by the door

ever since Jocelyn
put on her jacket and
went to the store.

When Jocelyn's here, he just stares directly at her. Or sleeps. WHO'S A GOOD DOG? WHO'S A GOOD DOG?

20 December 2009

The government stole my weather

by Cecily
I'm in Montana, where it has been freezing raining for DAYS and the skies are cloudy and gray and the weather guy on the teevee is very full of discouraging words. NOT LIKE THE SONG SAYS AT ALL.

Meanwhile, everyone in stupid DC gets snowball fights and hot cocoa and camaraderie. And they don't even have any mountains to ski on! I hope the Constitution Gods get their act together real quick like and put the snow back where it belongs, or about 50% of my packing will have been a total waste.

15 December 2009

But who would bring a SADDLE on an airplane? Come on, Delta. Don't be silly.

by Cecily
I'm getting ready to leave for Missoula, and since Our Dear Overlords keep changing up the rules for air travel, I went online to see what I could see.

It turns out that if you want to check any "Fragile/bulky items" on a Delta flight, you have to tell an official ahead of time.

Well, this seems reasonable! (I may or may not have said to myself,) But I wonder what type of item would fit into this somewhat vague category? Never fear; Delta has a handy list of examples of fragile and/or bulky items:

- saddle
- antlers
- Hawaiian pineapples
- military duffle bags

as well as a more comprehensive list including

- Ornamental Bric-a-Brac


- Meters

both of which are a little confusing to me: the first seems extremely unhelpful as the name of an "item", and the second, I have no idea what the referent might be. Parking meters? Yardsticks?

Anyway, I'm hoping if I stick the Hawaiian pineapples on the antler points, and then stick the whole thing into the military duffle bag, I can get away with a single charge.

14 December 2009

three's the charm, right?

by Cecily
Elizabeth got some kittens:

which is sparking all kinds of ill-advised wishes and plans in me. We already have two cats, and they hate each other. They really hate each other. They've lived together for 4 years, with no signs that the hatred is abating.

So my theory is, we should get a helpless baby kitten to melt their somewhat-disordered adult cat thinking, and then we will all be a cuddly happy family. Except first I'll probably borrow one of Elizabeth's kittens to make sure that Small can tell the difference between a baby kitten and a baby rabbit, because she will totally kill a baby rabbit and leave it on the floor of my room for a present. And that would ruin the cuddly happy family vibe that I'm going for, I'm pretty sure.

Anyway I've been spending all my time sitting around at Elizabeth's constructing cat toys out of paper and ignoring my responsibilities. Next stop: the Frozen North. Hasta.

25 November 2009

13 November 2009

"I have a Bible, a Koran, and a Book of Mormon in my bag"

by Cecily
...Tom said sacrilegiously.

Oh, snap! You thought I forgot about this kind of hilarious joke, didn't you? That was your first mistake, thinking I would ever be capable of forgetting about something so ridiculous.

I've been working on one about poetry, and not being able to write it, and being despondent, but it hasn't really come together for me yet.

Everything else is the same as it ever was. Except that my mom is coming to visit soon and there is only a month left of school which is alarming.

I guess now I'll go figure out all the things I have to do this weekend.

She said listlessly.

04 November 2009

This ain't no party

by Cecily
Daddy-O is leaving for Afghanistan today. His training has included Growing a Beard, Learning How to Get Along With the Military, and Practicing Getting In and Out of Helicopters.

Sadly, he won't be in an area where the Italians are the lead military. Sadly because, apparently they have lots of wine on their bases. Happily, he won't be in an area that has lots of violent danger. Happily because he's my daddy.

Afghanistan is farther away than I thought it was. Mainly because I've been basing "far away" on how my mom's in China and Lindsay's in Sydney, as one extreme, and whether or not I have to leave a 3 block radius, as the other. Turns out, Aghanistan is still pretty far!

31 October 2009

28 October 2009


by Cecily
I've been barely recovering from one germy disease just in time to be stricken by another one, for a couple of months now. Other than that I have nothing of interest to report so you should probably go spend a few hours looking at this guy's far more entertaining and far more frequently updated website.


07 October 2009

Argent two bars Gules in chief three mullets in fess of the second

by Cecily
Last summer Ben asked me why all the DC city type things (vehicles, buildings, license plates) had three red stars and two red strips on them. Like so:

I didn't know, and my powers of internet searching were weak.

Then this fall, instead of writing my dissertation, I found out! It is the Flag of the District of Columbia, and it is based on George Washington's family coat of arms.

And the name of the coat of arms is Argent Two Bars Gules in Chief Three Mullets in Fess of the Second.

So, I think we all learned something today. You're welcome.

06 October 2009

Small v Superball

by Cecily

Unclear what happened to the ball, at the end, there. Cat seems satisfied with the outcome, whatever it was.

05 October 2009

The Best Health Care in the World: multiple choice quiz

by Cecily
1. Today I went to the doctor for symptoms including intermittent fever. Without being reminded, the highly-trained medical staff remembered to do which 2 of the following 3 things?
a. take my blood pressure
b. weigh me
c. take my temperature

2. I have been exhibiting flu-like symptoms. There is a flu pandemic, and it is Normal Non-pandemic Flu Season. I do not have white spots on my throat, and I do have a cough. Which of the following tests was I given? (pick one)
a. Strep
b. seasonal flu
c. H1N1

3. After it had been determined that I do not have strep throat, which astute follow-up question was I asked?
a. Can you hear?
b. Can you read lips?
c. Have you seen a doctor about hearing loss?
d. all of the above

There is no answer sheet. The answer is screaming.

26 September 2009

A Celebration of Special-Ness

by Cecily
As I was leaving campus last week after teaching at College-That-Is-Past-Damascus, I was stuck on Main Street for half an hour because there was a parade.

I don't know what the parade was for. It wasn't a holiday. I was pretty close to it all, so I could see what the parade consisted of, and what it consisted of wasn't informative. What it consisted of was marching bands, walking people with glowy necklaces, pickups with people in the beds, and various emergency vehicles with their fancy lights all flashing.

I sat there smiling at them all and feeling alternately gleeful and guilt-ridden. Because all I could think about was True Stories and how much I love David Byrne.


I have something to say about this. But I've forgotten what it is. I have it written down at home though.

22 September 2009

Big Brother is taking good care of me

by Cecily
Cab drivers in DC used to just drive around until they got somewhere and then turn to you, palm up, for money. An amount of money that as far as anyone could tell they had invented, or dreamt, or received from the gods. And the place wasn't always the place you had in mind, either.

Now, cab drivers in DC have meters and GPS. And my world is much better.

It is particularly difficult to correct-en-route a cab driver when you are deaf. Even if your voice is pretty understandable and the cab driver can hear you, he* probably won't internalize the fact that you can't hear him*. So when you try to say "turn here" or "take a right on Rhode Island" he* will probably respond to you with something you can't hear, and then later chastise you for it.

If you don't talk, and you just hand him* a piece of paper with the address/directions written on it, then you have no way of knowing what kind of mental processes are occurring as you drive. Particularly if you are a little bit or a lot drunk, this is true. Which is problematic because everyone [read: me] takes cabs a lot more often when they are a little bit or a lot drunk.

But, now, with the new fancy Fare Meter GPS rule, it is much better! You can sit in the back seat, drunkenly musing on whatever you would care to muse on, and keep an eye on the little screens in the front. One little screen will tell you where you are, and what the cab driver thinks he* is doing. There is a big bright line telling you where he* thinks he* is going! It is easy to object and correct when necessary.

Tonight, for example, I gave the nice cab driver man* a piece of paper with my address and several other ways to consider my address written on it. First, the actual mailing address. Second, the cross streets with letter and number streets. Third, the actual closest intersection to my house. In the past, this same information has yielded widely varying results, including cab drivers who thought I meant I (Eye) Street when I wrote 1st (First), and also multiple confusions between quadrants even though I was very careful to specify.

But tonight, Cab Driver Man* just typed what I wrote into his little GPS meter dealy, and I could tell right away that we were on the right track. The GPS even knew the appropriate shortcuts to take. Cab Driver Man* did not get stressed out, and I got home with zero problems and for an acceptable number of dollars.

Moral: I love GPS.

*I've not yet had a female cab driver in DC. I have no idea if this is a statistically useful sample.

21 September 2009

holy ridiculous, Small.

by Cecily

Also, she purr-snores.

12 September 2009

I mean, I'm proud of Elizabeth, too...

by Cecily
This kid kind of blows my mind. As usual.

School's going good. I might actually get a degree at some time in the not terribly distant future. A student told me my class was "one of the hardest I've ever taken" which my roommate thinks I should take as a compliment but I'm not quite as sure about. DC got taken over by rabid wingnuts this weekend, but since I never leave my house it didn't really affect me. Maryrose is back in town for a visit, and the air is cool enough at night that I am contemplating the addition of another down comforter. So all in all things are pretty okay.

08 September 2009

Family Update: Bullet Point Edition

by Cecily
- my mother has a pet cricket.
- my father is moving to a war zone.
- all of my siblings are enrolled in institutes of higher learning.
- Happy birthday, Tom!

01 September 2009

So far I have been neither lost nor converted

by Cecily
The semester started! Summer is over. The pool is about to close. Yesterday evening you needed a SWEATER. If you left the house I mean. Not that I did that.

I'm teaching two classes this fall. So far I've taught one of each. So far so good.

One class is at a small college way far north of me, in a state*. To get to it, I have to follow the road to Damascus. I find this endlessly entertaining, and I tell myself various phrases that involve "on the way to Damascus" over and over as I drive.

*I have to leave my neighborhood, and my quadrant, and the whole DISTRICT. It is very exciting.

26 August 2009

U-huh, uh-uh.

by Cecily
I think my favorite discourse phenomenon in Standard American English these days is the use of the introductory phrase "Yeah, no."

I use it ALL THE TIME. It is the most awesome way to disagree with someone, ever.

There's no real great way to do it in actual manual ASL, but a smooth gradual transition between nodding your head "yes" and shaking your head "no", combined with appropriate transformation of facial expression, does the trick discourse-wise.

Julie always gets mad at me for starting every sentence with "right, but" (in both English and ASL). This is a similar but nonidentical expression. "Right, but" expresses that while what your interlocutor has just said is true, it has failed to account for some major point that you are about to bring up. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with "right, but"; I'm just saying it's a different kind of statement than "yeah, no".

"Yeah, no", as opposed to "right, but", does not imply that the content of the interlocutor was correct, but merely that you have understood what they meant and are now contradicting it. Surprisingly, this is not necessarily a hostile position to be taking- often, in my experience, "yeah, no" is employed to acknowledge that the interlocutor's position makes sense and would be a reasonable assumption, but in fact does not obtain.

For example,

A: I'd heard of the Barefoot Benefits and all that stuff - here, no less, with that fingery-shoe conversation - but I didn't realize that by "barefoot" they meant "nothing to do with bare feet whatsoever, but rather walking on barrels like an idiot".

B: Yeah, no, these are a different phenomenon from the barely-there shoes that hippie lifeguards like.

One of my favorite undergrad professors did a really fantastic super-subtle version of this: in class, when anyone was talking, he would thoughtfully listen and nod as you went. You would gain confidence (the professor is nodding thoughtfully!) and so expand on your thesis, often to somewhat absurd little thin branches (the professor was a Professor of Art History). Finally, having concluded your analysis, you would sit, quietly, while the whole class waited and the professor continued to nod thoughtfully for a few moments.

Then he would sit up straight and say "No, I don't think that's right." Then he would tell you about how wrong it was for a while.

I loved this professor greatly, and I think everyone else did too. And I really appreciated the fact that he thought carefully about even the dumbest, longest, most hare-brained expositions about art. He thought about them carefully, nodding all the while, and then, very politely, shut you down good.

Yeah, no.

21 August 2009

rockin it contagious

by Cecily
I want this guy to be my new best friend:


17 August 2009

it means "related to awesome"

by Cecily
Language Log has a series of posts up wherein Geoffrey Pullum tries to figure out the meaning of a mysterious word that he doesn't know and has never seen written.

The great naturalist Sir David Attenborough, on Radio 4, mentioned a curious-sounding class of animals that he appeared to be calling Sicilians... I listened carefully; it definitely sounded like "Sicilians". But what was this word? These creatures (he made it clear) did not live in Sicily.

Professor Pullum uses the Power of Phonetics to decide that the word must go like this at the beginning:
[PS or C or S] then [E or I or Y]* then [C or S or SS]

but he can't figure it out!

He should have asked someone with a name like mine, because I totally knew what the word was, because all my hopelessly recondite lovers-of-abstrusity friends and relations are always making hilarious jokes in which I am compared to a blind underground snake-worm. Other times the jokes are about sewage systems. My friends and relations are so educational.

*I kind of think he is wrong about this. The second part is only limited to E/I/Y if the first part is a C or PS. Otherwise the vowel could be anything (ANYTHING!) and it'd come out schwa. That's what I think. Now you know.

09 August 2009


by Cecily
update: now with captions! Thanks secret internet listener!

02 August 2009

jiggety jug, jag, jeg

by Cecily
I'm back in DC. The vines grew a lot while I was gone. The cat's happy to see me.

26 July 2009

Montannesotigan, here I come

by Cecily
Big Northern M State destination of the day is Minnesota. That is the one in the middle, of the three, for those of you who have trouble keeping track. It is also the one with Chris and Kate and Trisha and Emily and this guy. Hooray! Friends!

I'll be there all week. The weather is supposed to be much less gross than DC, which is a surprising but pleasing turn of events.

23 July 2009

how everything in DC functions*

by Cecily
Remember when I went to France for that workshop? Well before I went, I got a travel advance because my fellowship was paying for stuff. But then I didn't spend the whole travel advance because I am so thrifty and responsible. When I got back, I owed the school $208.43. So I wrote them a check.

They deposited the check. The funds were withdrawn from my account.

Then last week I got an email saying this:
Your request for reimbursement has been approved. You will receive a reimbursement in the amount of $208.43. This paperwork will be walked to Accounting on 7/21/2009.

When I emailed our secretary to find out what happened, I got an out-of-office reply and haven't heard anything since.

And today I got an email from the Cashier's Office saying my check is ready to be picked up.

I'm not sure what the best course of action is, here. Should I pick up the check, and deposit it, and wait for someone in accounting to notice that they added instead of subtracting? Should I ignore the check and hope someone else deals with the paperwork?

What I do not want to happen is this: I don't get the check (or get it but don't deposit it) and then someone charges me $208.43 anyway.

Chris showed up yesterday when I was in the middle of complaining about this story to Alyssa. He said "It sounds like you are having a codependent relationship with someone." He is right. Stop letting me enable you, Gallaudet!

*For certain values of "function".

19 July 2009

The actual value is probably closer to 3/5

by Cecily
The dumbest idea in Peter Singer's piece today in the NYT magazine is the idea that the value of human life and health can be ascertained via polling.
If most would prefer, say, 10 years as a quadriplegic to 4 years of nondisabled life, but would choose 6 years of nondisabled life over 10 with quadriplegia, but have difficulty deciding between 5 years of nondisabled life or 10 years with quadriplegia, then they are, in effect, assessing life with quadriplegia as half as good as nondisabled life... If that judgment represents a rough average across the population, we might conclude that restoring to nondisabled life two people who would otherwise be quadriplegics is equivalent in value to saving the life of one person, provided the life expectancies of all involved are similar. [my emphasis]

Really? What about if we asked people if they'd rather be a man for 50 years or a woman for 100? If people have trouble deciding, does that mean men are worth twice as much?

16 July 2009

05 July 2009

jiggety jog

by Cecily
We're all in DC again, me and Jocelyn and Ben. Man, I am bored of jet lag. I have spent way too much of the past two months having no idea what time of what day it might be, or where I am, or why I am still awake.

Good night!

04 July 2009

Some Families Play Cribbage

by Jocelyn
This family plays Bridge.

Sometimes when we play Bridge, there are cards and bidding and tricks.

Sometimes, there is just Bridge. Or, you know - a lack of bridge, and some earthworks to fix the situation.

The brave vehicles waiting for their "road".

(note from Jocelyn: the events pictured took place on the way to the beach, after the trip with the rowboats but before the trip to Kruger. I am a lazy blogger, hence the delay. Also this post is written from the Johannesburg airport and there are problems uploading pictures; so the pictures showing the triumphant success of the vehicles crossing the earthworked bridge will have to come later.)

03 July 2009

Here are some photographs of fauna and megafauna that we have recently seen

by Cecily
That's right, I said MEGAfauna. 'Cause they're BIG.

all photos: Mark LoParco


water buffalo

rhinoceros, baby rhinoceros


cheetahs are easily bored



more are at flickr now, and more to come.

02 July 2009

Oh internet, I missed you so

by Cecily
We spent the past five days at Kruger National Park, just over the border in South Africa. The same Kruger as in this famous piece of internet:

We didn't see anything quite as exciting as this. We did see lions and water buffalo and crocodiles, but not all at once and not doing their behaviors in such a dramatic way. Also there were a lot of warthogs and hippopotomi and elephants and monkeys and baboons and guinea fowl and kudu and impala. And so many birds.

My favorites were the little baby warthog piglets. My least favorites were the Go-away birds, who sat in the tree over the deck and screamed at me and threw things at my head. Until eventually I went away to drink my beer and glare at them scornfully from a safer vantage point.

Now we're back in Maputo; pictures eventually.

25 June 2009

see you later alligators

by Cecily
We're going to the beach for a few days. Maputo, where we are currently, is on the beach but you can't swim in the ocean here because of pollution. And we all know that the only thing I care about is swimming in the ocean. People have been telling me stories about alligators, but I'm not scared because I know the trick of punching the alligator in the nose and then running in a zig zag pattern. Because alligators won't chase you out of the water, and running in a zig zag pattern is more hilarious for the onlookers.

We'll be back on Saturday so that the more energetic members of the group can run the hash. This is the same thing that Lindsay did in Rwanda, here and here and here. If we get back in time, this will be the fourth country in which I have attended, but not participated in, a Hash event. I'm excited for that.

23 June 2009

Name a Form of Transportation

by Jocelyn
(Note from Cecily: Jocelyn wrote this all up last night but encountered technical difficulties, and I was already in bed. That is why you had to wait so long for another blog post. This will help you learn to be patient, which is a valuable skill, so we aren't going to apologize at all.) (also there will be pictures eventually. BUT ONLY IF YOU ARE VERY PATIENT.)

(Note from Jocelyn: see! the reward of virtue! Pictures!)

TodayYesterday we had a relaxing trip up the Incomati River to a lodge, where we had lunch. Then we took a brief swim and a nature walk and took a boat back down to Marracuene where we retrieved our vehicles and drove home. Or at least that is what was supposed to happen.

map of our adventure

Boats are wooden

We left Maputo on schedule, having joined the rest of our party at a pleasant coffee shop. We drove for a while, through some nice fields and woods. There was only one unplanned stop when someone's tire deflated and we needed to inflate by the side of the road, but that was mostly pleasant. We got to a restaurant at Marracuene, parked the cars, used the bathroom, bought water, and met the boat. At this time, all was still on schedule. I don't have pictures of it because I didn't think of it.

This boat was made of inflated rubber with nice teak benches. It went real fast, and we all got kind of wet from the spray. Fun!

In this picture, Ben is attempting to keep his face dry. Or something.

Pleasant conversation amongst the ladies ensued. Or, amongst the ladies and Ben - because it was us and then a bunch of wives of diplomats, ten travelers in total. Everyone was nice, all day.

Looks like somebody didn't read the fine print

Then our first mishap occurred. We are still not certain whether the tank had contained insufficient fuel to begin with, or whether there was some kind of leak in the fuel line. By the time we were interested in this question, the actual boat and actual engine were completely unavailable for inspection for reason to be discussed, so all of it is speculation. There had been an unfortunate near-collision between the boat and a fishing net which may, or may not, have been involved in the engine failure.

Regardless, the boat was no longer going. It was pretty windy - fighting a headwind the whole way may have had something to do with the lack of petrol in the boat. Or it might not. But once the engine quit, we fairly quickly got blown onto the reeds on the lee bank. Phone calls between the boat driver and the lodge to which we were headed were made, and we were reassured that someone was coming in a different boat with additional petrol.

We sat in the sun and chatted.

No different boat came, and no additional petrol.

More phone calls were made.

You could make a car out of wood...

Ben got bored, and some excitement happened.

This mud was not nearly as stinky as it could have been, and nobody lost any shoes.

Eventually, a different boat did come. Actually three.

We were confused - why are there two canoes and a rowboat, and why do none of them contain additional petrol?

I was under the impression that you could win prizes, or money

As it turns out, the lodge had only a small amount of petrol, and all of it was in the tank of the truck. This amount was sufficient to get the truck to a place where more petrol was to be had; the problem would be thus solved, except that the truck's battery was in the boat, attached to the engine.

So the ten of us, plus Bennie our original boat driver, needed to get into the two canoes and the flat-bottomed fishing rowboat. No problem. Three passengers per canoe (two paddles in one canoe, one in the other) with the battery in the first, four ladies plus Bennie plus two fisherman in the rowboat. Off we go, paddling into a headwind.

The Rolling ... Bears?

This took a really, really long time. Fortunately it was nice out. We looked at birds and occasionally got stuck on a sandbank. Cecily and I were in the rowboat, which took the longest time and got stuck on sandbanks the most often. I enjoyed it a lot. We saw two hippos and some other things. The hippos were on the east bank; we were told later by informants from other canoes (Ben and Nancy) that they were not told about the hippos because the guides and/or fishermen did not want to frighten anyone.

I don't have any pictures of this journey because the boats were precarious and wet, and Nancy's camera stayed in my bag.

An hour and a half later, we arrived at the lodge. The north wind had blown invasive Water Hyacinth all into the beach there, so it was hard to get the boats in.

It was extra hard to get the rowboat in, because we needed to turn right and all the ladies in the back of the boat were acting as a sail, turning the boat into the wind, which happened to be a turn to the left. Eventually in order to make this turn, the fishergentlemen had to put the boat on a sandbank, get out, and push us around until the wind was on our stern.

But it happened in the end, and we had beer and lunch at two o'clock on the veranda. It was really nice.

Blue is not a form of transportation

As soon as the first canoe arrived, the battery went in the truck and the owner went off to get more petrol. As soon as he got back, the petrol and two men went in a canoe back to the big boat, with the idea that they would start up the boat, bring it back, pick us up, and have us back to our cars by maybe 4:30 pm.

After lunch, some of us went for a walk through the sandy woods. The dog went with us, which turned out to be a good thing. We saw some birds, and some lovely cattle.

The cattle were blocking the road we wanted to walk on, so we turned around to go back the way we had come, and promptly got lost.

Some combination of wandering around, asking villagers for directions, and repeatedly telling Kai the Dog to "go home! good boy!" eventually got us back to the lodge.

We were surprised not to see the big boat back. Further consideration led us all to notice that the battery was still in the truck, and so, petrol or no petrol, motorboat was not going anywhere.

A car could be blue!

Backup plan: the lodge owner and a farmer friend of his would put us all in their trucks and drive us down the peninsula to the ferry. We would cross on foot and, since the ferry dock was where the vehicles had been left, rejoin the cars with relative ease.

It took a while, but eventually this did occur. The waiting included sunshine, veranda, and beer, so we enjoyed it.

Two trucks, nine ladies and Ben plus one other guy along for the ride. Some fuss about pillows and towels for those of us in the bed of the bigger truck, but we got underway.

Anyone who is interested in making snarky and judgmental comments about the quality of this photo and the one following is welcomed to zip it. YOU try taking pictures from the back of a truck on a dirt "road".

Round Two, where the orphan points double

We had not gotten very far underway, however, when the second truck got a flat. A bad one.

However, the time was drawing near when the ferry would quit running, so we could not stop to fix it. The passengers from the second, little truck squished into the first truck, with careful attention paid to who was most likely to throw up and thus needed the front seat, and we left the lodge owner on the road with an electric pump for his tire and our best hopes for his success.

The section of road that followed was unbelievable, like the moon or something. I wish I had pictures, but it was too dark. We got to the ferry dock and watched the stars come out and hoped that the ferry (visible on the far bank) would come back that night.

Boats ARE Wooden!

It did. We watched it leave the far bank and, as a car ZOOMed down the hill and was four minutes too late, watched the ferry turn back and dock to pick up that truck. I wish that would happen to me more often.

When the ferry got to us, some trucks unloaded and some other trucks loaded. The ferrymen were not great at organizing this; at one time, the boat was loaded in a way that made the gangway a foot off the dock at one end, and then the last truck couldn't load. Some moving of trucks on the boat and some powerful shoving solved this problem, however, and we were away. Back to the west bank, back down the street to the cars, back down the dark dusty road to the city, and thence home. Maybe only four or five hours late.

Some members of the studio audience will also receive: orphans!

All in all, it was a pretty great trip. The weather was nice, the hippos didn't try to kill us, we saw some birds and ate some good food.

Nobody threw up.

No boats sank.

Tomorrow, maybe we will find caipirinhas. They make them here. Delicious.

map of our adventure

21 June 2009

brief, whiny, deprived of sleep

by Cecily
We made it to Maputo. I am so tired. My eyes and my head and my feet and my back hurt. Also I left my Proof of Yellow Fever Vaccination in my desk drawer in DC so that is messing up some plans, but we managed to get past customs anyway. Email me, I miss you!

16 June 2009

Yes, yes, I am still alive

by Cecily
I totally lied about bloggin all the time, huh? I've been ill again, and I'm going to Mozambique on Friday. These are my excuses. Let's not discuss it again.

Katie and Ryan came over last week so we drank beers and laughed at the cat for a while. Then, to Ryan's limitless delight, Katie and I lectured him and drew him diagrams about linguistics things. Many excellent paper titles came out of the conversation that evening. The winner, by Katie:

"The Little Children Apply Their Brain-Grammars"

Then we watched Planet Earth and learned about some crazy, crazy animals that are out there eating each other.

That's all I got for you right now. Stay tuned for sibling guest posts and pictures of me swimming in the ocean.

30 May 2009

jiggety jig

by Cecily
Here's what I did yesterday:

automobile: hotel to train
train: Orsay to Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport
plane: CDG to JFK
automobile: JFK to LGA
plane: LGA to DCA
automobile: Washington Reagan International Airport to home

Because of thunderstorms in DC, all my planes out of New York kept getting delayed and cancelled. I was in transit for 24 hours! Now I am sitting on my couch and am never getting up ever again. Somebody bring me some more coffee please.

24 May 2009

Bonjour mon petit bureau de change

by Cecily
I'm in France. This is my theme song:


Today, Paris. Tomorrow, Orsay. Au revoir!

22 May 2009

Different parts of this are embarrassing for different people

by Cecily
I am in the airport waiting to go to Paris. I bought a book. The book is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies "by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith".

It was in the "classics" section of the airport bookstore.

Also I bought a book that tells me French pickup lines: Est-ce que tu as [un petit ami] [une petite amie] [un f├ętiche] [du feu]?*

Watch out, France.

*Do you have a [boyfriend] [girlfriend] [fetish] [light]?

20 May 2009


by Cecily
I was in the other Washington for the past week- Seattle and Bellingham are as delightful as ever. I saw Jocelyn and Brayde and Lindsay and Adam and Liz, and they all are looking spectacularly healthy and attractive. But Lindsay and Brayde are married now, so hands off.

Now I'm back in this Washington, the Sweaty Armpit Capital City of America. The first, but never let it be said only, Washington.

And on Friday I'm going to Paris (well, really, Orsay) for a workshop. A workshop about phonetics and signed languages. I will be presenting an hour long talk about Natural Classes and Phonetics and Acquisition. Are you frantic to learn more? Please email me directly, as I fear the general public eschews lengthy discussions of phonetics presentations.

Anyway, I am busy doing a billion things at the same time right now. Renewing my truck registration, purchasing travel-sized shampoos, doing my laundry, etc. But as soon as this trip is over, it's Summer with a capital S and that rhymes with Sleeping In And Then Spending All Day By The Pool Except When I'm Blogging. So you'll be hearing a lot from me shortly.

08 May 2009


by Cecily
I am way behind on all kinds of dissertation-type activities, so I spent the last two days building a giant castle out of cardboard for Gryphon's birthday.

This picture is from last night, before I painted it all green and purple and iridescent. And put tops and crenellations on the towers. Now it looks like this:

Some things need more iridescent paint, obviously. And maybe some flags and banners and more glitter. Clearly I need to spend many more hours working on this project before I have time for anything else.

01 May 2009

Dear Internet,

by Cecily
I have been in a terrible mood for the past two weeks. My birthday was over, and it was the end of the semester, and I was very ill. But then I got better and I spent the evening tonight with two friends, drinking whiskey out of teacups and eating artichokes and watching silly television shows and internet versions of The State. It is still the end of the semester, but now I feel much better about the world. So I hope you all are well, and I will tell you something entertaining soon.


25 April 2009


by Cecily
Last weekend was my (and Rachel's) 30th birthday party, and it was the most scientific of all.

Oz took these pictures. Nice work Oz!

We had:
- posters about disease progression in cells
- molecules made out of balloons
- miracle fruits!
- beakers
- lab coats
- foam stickers in scientific shapes
- a whole lotta C2H5OH.

I spent the night drinking whiskey and coke out of an Erlenmeyer flask with a fancy purple twisty straw.

And all week, I kept running into my neighbors who would tell me about how drunk they were on Saturday and how their hangovers lasted for two days and where and when they threw up. Science is dangerous kids; wear your safety goggles!

Now I am frantically trying to make up for all the time I spent ordering science on the internet and setting up scientific experiments and daydreaming about lab coats and magnification, instead of writing my dissertation proposal and doing my homework. It's the end of the semester now; no more fooling around.

Upcoming: I am going to Seattle (well, Bellingham) in mid-May for Brayde's wedding, and Paris at the end of May for a sign language phonetics workshop, and Mozambique late June to look at giant turtles and lie around in some African beach sunshine. Also upcoming: Summer. Guess who has a back yard and a barbeque now?

13 April 2009

another note from China: Altitude Parabolic!

by Special Guest!
Mama says:
The corner street market is open almost all the time now, and I got back from a quick shopping trip this morning to find this notice in the downstairs hallway:
Please! Do not high altitude parabolic!
Please refuse into the bin of life!
Thank for you cooperate!

For several reasons I feel that this might be aimed at us. (Not, of course, that we would EVER high altitude parabolic! Heaven forbid!) We are the highest-up people in the building, and would have the best chance to make things go parabolic if we wanted to, since we also have the only balcony to throw things off. We are also the only English speaking people in the building, and most notices are put up only in Chinese. So why else would they bother to translate it if they don't think that we are doing something in this nefarious vein? I feel slightly paranoid about them thinking this, but also a little miffed. I have been so scrupulous about recycling and I never have put the trash any where except the bin of life!

Cecily says:
I know I never tell you anything about MY life anymore. But it is the end of the semester, and the end of the year, and also it is almost my birthday, and also I am extremely lazy and disorganized. Here's what's on the horizon though: Science Birthday 30!

See you soon.

02 April 2009

Family Update: Wizard of Oz edition

by Cecily
Here is an email, in its entirety, that I recently received from my mama, ensubjected "Theorem and Proof":

I postulate:

A. That in the last six months I have had to spend a lot of hours being Very Bored Indeed sitting in the back of taxis (also afraid for my life from the sketchy driving most of the time, but that’s another story).

B. So I started noticing an aspect of the city that maybe not everyone here has perceived, and I began taking the camera everywhere, and getting pictures to document my case. Jim has become extremely disgusted with this particular obsession of mine, and will no longer speak to me about it. I have embarrassed him enough! It’s time to tell the world the truth about where we live!

Here is the proof:

This was followed by a link to a photo album called "Not = Kansas", from which I have extracted representative samples.

(left at home in KansasSeattle.


the Emerald City:

emerald city 1

emerald city 2

emerald city 3

emerald city 4

emerald city 5

the Wicked Witch of the West:

wicked witch

The Cowardly Lion:

cowardly lion enshrined

Omby Amby(s):

Omby Ambys

Tik-Tok's house:

tik tok's house

The Gump:

the gump

The Wise Donkey:

wise donkey

and then later, a followup captioned "Also? Yesterday we found the rainbow! Only I think waaay too many people have been over it."

overused rainbow

The rest of the pictures are here.

So. There you go. That's all I have to say about that. Except, oh, I am going to Mozambique in June with some siblings. So that will be fun. If you're in Mozambique, we should totally meet up.

22 March 2009


by Cecily
So, here's a story for you:

When my brother Will was 2, he liked to pretend he was a puppy. He'd crawl around and bark, and my mom made him a headband with dog ears and fed him cereal out of a bowl on the kitchen floor. One day, my mom asked my brother (in dog character) what his name was:

Mom: what's your name, little dog?
Will: Today's Potato Soup Blaster

No one knows where this idea came from, but it stuck around. From that day forth, whenever Will was being a puppy, his name was Today's Potato Soup Blaster.

Then, three years later, we got a puppy.

We all talked about what to name the puppy. No one really cared, except Will, who was now five. Will insisted that "Today's Potato Soup Blaster" was the only name right-thinking people would name a puppy. The rest of us grumbled, but acquiesced.

Except, my other brother, Matt, who was four, had some trouble remembering this name. So when Will was off at kindergarden every day, Matt would spend his mornings playing with the puppy and asking my mother what the puppy's name was. Over and over again.

My mother grew weary of this game with predictable speed, and to amuse herself, turned to sarcasm.

Matt (for the 10th time in an hour): What's the puppy's name?
Mom: (fondly, exasperatedly, and totally expecting to be ignored): Oh, just call him WHAT!

To those who have met any of the people involved, what ensued is not surprising.

Matt, who at the time had the attention span of something-with-a-very-short-attention-span, somehow glommed on to the new name, and proceeded to go into the front yard to play with the puppy.

Informational Aside: My mom hated our next door neighbors at the time. They had lots of vicious Rottweilers and were rude and annoying. But they did like dogs, and we all maintained a veneer of polite acquaintanceship.

The neighbor lady was in her front yard. Matt and the puppy were in our front yard. My mom was in the kitchen, spying observing.

Neighbor: Hi sweetie! What's the puppy's name?
Matt: What!
Neighbor (louder): What's the puppy's name, honey?
Matt: His name is What!
Neighbor: No, what's his name?
Matt: Yeah! What's his name!
Mom: (silent hysterical laughter)

This conversation went on for a long, long time. Matt didn't get bored, and just got very slightly frustrated and annoyed. He was such a charming, well-meaning child. The neighbor lady was annoyed and frustrated, but since she was talking to a four-year-old, she didn't think anything of it. My mom laughed harder than she had any right to, and didn't ever intervene.

Neighbor: is that your new puppy?
Matt: yeah!
Neighbor: does he have a name?
Matt: yeah!
Neighbor: what is his name?
Matt: yeah! his name is What!

So. At the end of this momentous day, everyone came home from work and school and my mama told us the story (she cried a little bit, from laughing, while retelling it) (I cry a little bit from laughing when I retell it too).

And from that day forth, the dog was called What.

postscript: when people yelled to each other ("MOOOOOM!" "WHAT!?!?") the dog always came running. "No, not YOU."

And it was pretty fun to stand at the back door yelling What! WHAAAT! What! at night.

15 March 2009

when I cry, it's totally because of the wind.

by Cecily
Phoebe took me to see The Silent World at the Library of Congress last week. This movie is so, so great.

Summary of the plot: Mostly-naked French guys are on a boat. They have aqualungs. They smoke cigarettes and drink wine. They encounter wildlife. They have emotional responses to wildlife. They kill wildlife. They smoke more cigarettes and drink more wine. The end.

Throughout these events, Jacques Cousteau narrates and commentates and ruminates and explicates. He does things with scientific implements. He stages casual conversations with crew members during which everyone points at a chart and looks serious.

Then they find land! It is a desert island! The men ride giant tortoises while smoking cigarettes.

Then they discover footprints, and the footprints lead them to Black Native Islander Man, who is digging for turtle eggs. Luckily, he speaks English.

There are many bizarre aspects of this movie but I think Black Native Islander Man is the winner. No one ever explains why he is on the island, how he got there, or why he cares about the turtle eggs. He has a fake Jamaican-style accent (on top of the French) and he tells us about the giant turtles and their life cycle. When the mother turtles return to the ocean after laying their eggs, they are crying. Some say it is because of the wind, but Black Native Islander Man knows better: it is because of Sorrow.

09 March 2009

my neighbor sings the blues

by Cecily
Via text message. By accident.

My arms hurt so bad
I laid down
And can't get up
Bob said
What ails you?
I said Chronic Loneliness.
And everyone felt reaaal awkward

My neighbor is a text-message-by-accident Blues GENIUS.

05 March 2009

Q: If that same pirate were then to recite a 20th-century poem about the nature of poetry, what would it be?

by Cecily
Language Hat:
Archibald MacLeish famously ended his 1926 "Ars Poetica" with "A poem should not mean/ But be." I learn from Peter Howarth in the LRB that Robert Frost put a nasty spin on this in a notebook entry: "A poem shouldn't mean, it should be mean." So much for the grandfatherly figure maundering about roads not taken, so beloved of careless skimmers of anthologies.

Mean poems!

02 March 2009

alphabet. ballet dancing. sort of.

by Cecily

She's 2 now. Watch out.


01 March 2009


by Cecily
Weather is exciting around here these days. My life, not so much. I've spent 427 of the last 36 hours writing a paper. The end.

27 February 2009

tickle tickle

by Cecily
You probably haven't been doing enough of this lately.

19 February 2009


by Cecily
Lukas and I had a fight* the other day about whether or not people should ever use the word "overexaggerate". Lukas said no, and that anyone who did so was being extremely irritating. I said well they probably were being extremely irritating but you theoretically could use the word in an acceptable way regardless and that the irritatingness was a red herring.

For example: Some people have a tendency towards underexaggeration when they are telling a story.** And they will tell you all about EXACTLY what day and time and what dress they were wearing and what they had for lunch and if they did something on the way to the bank or the way home. This is also extremely irritating.

Other people*** exaggerate precisely the right amount, being neither too boringly pedantically precise nor ridiculously hyperbolic. Neither under- nor over-exaggerating. The Platonic Ideal of exaggeration. The exact combination of facts and artistic license that everyone agrees is the Best Way. We**** should all try to be more like these people.

*There is some chance that this word choice might be considered an example of overexaggeration. Since in fact what we had was a three-turn conversation via text message in which no one disagreed with anyone else.

**Midwestern women particularly. According to Discourse Linguists.

***Like me, mainly.


08 February 2009

oh, hi there internet

by Cecily
I'm in Seattle for this conference. Seattle is damp, the conference was great, now it is over. I have a fever. Tomorrow my goal is to go look at lots of fishes in giant tanks. Wooo! Aquarium!

I'll be back soon don't worry.

02 February 2009

Who I is

by Cecily
Google tells us:
Cecily is the director of the Forest.
Cecily is slated to arrive at 7pm.
Cecily is a doll!
Cecily is no exception.
Cecily is such a tease.
Cecily is a dainty fascinator.
Cecily is not a quirky, ditzy free-spirit.
Cecily is no Donalda Trump.
Cecily is not a member of any Causes.

These things have been happening to me: (1) freezing rain (2) stomach flu (3) conference prep.

Now, of course, it is like 60 degrees and sunny around here. Will there be another 30-degree jump in temperature by tomorrow? Will I need rainboots or snowshoes or sunscreen? Will I want the windows open or closed? Will I ever grow tired of complaining about the totally whacked out weather in DC? Only time will tell, my friends. Only time will tell.

27 January 2009

I am really excited to see what this post does for my referral stats

by Cecily
So I was thinking about the title I put on that post about the Chinese hotel bathtub rule and wishing I had titled it something else. I know, I know, life's too short for regrets, don't cry over spilled milk, what's done is done, it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye, you can't squeeze blood from a turnip. But listen! if you don't consider your mistakes and shortcomings how will you learn and grow? And by "you", I mean "me".*

Anyway I titled it thusly:

Attontion! Crazy Germans!

but it occurred to me today that a much better title would have been

Attontion! Naked German Tourists!

This would have been incrementally more pithy and entertaining and also a more accurate reflection of the post's content (which included mention of people who were German, who were naked, and who were tourists in China, but did not make any explicit reference to these people's state or states of mental well-being and/or lack thereof).

Oh, well. Life goes on. You win some, you lose some. The beat goes on. Don't change horses in the middle of the stream. Never trust a man in a blue trench coat, never drive a car when you're dead. The point is, you know what would not have been a good title? This:

Attontion! Naked Tourist Germans!

This is interesting** because "German" is a perfectly good noun in English, as well as being an adjective. And "tourist" can be an adjective too (examples, more examples). So I do not know why "German tourist" is so much better than "tourist German". It is a mystery! A mystery for the syntacticians to solve and then write incomprehensible papers about. Potentially a mystery that has already been solved and written about incomprehensibly by the syntacticians. Since I don't read syntax papers I will probably never know, and by extension, neither will you. Too bad for both of us.

In conclusion, what I really should have used for the title is

Attontion! Tourist German Nakeds!

Sorry guys. I'll try to do better next time.

*Actually I probably mean "I". Possibly "you", though. Maybe all three. In reality, it's usually kind of hard to tell what I mean. I don't worry about it too much.

**Interesting to ME. Why? Who did you think I meant?

24 January 2009

Olive wins

by Cecily
You might think your baby is cute, and, all right, fair enough, it probably is. But does your baby have a heart-shaped birthmark on its cheek?

Well, Sarah and Brian's baby does.

19 January 2009

Holy Moses!

by Cecily
Last night my neighbor friend hosted a Burning Bush party.

people standing around a backyard bonfire

We all watched Bruce and Pete on the big tv and got teary eyed and patriotic, and then yelled while we put things on the fire, and then had a dance party.

backyard crowed with Mission Accompished banner on a wooden fence

I contributed a Bush to burn.

woman and man flanking papier-mache GWBush head on a stick

Yay! America! Woo! Fire!

fire in a firepit, people in the background

photos by Holly, as usual.